Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company, recently launched a worldwide crackdown against Nine inch Nails fans who posted songs from the band's new album, Year Zero, on music blogs. But according to sources close to NIN, the label didn't realize that frontman Trent Reznor leaked the tracks on purpose, as part of an elaborate marketing campaign for the disc, out April 17th. The Recording Industry Association of America sent cease-and-desist letters to U.S. web sites – including the music blog idolator.com – demanding that they remove the tracks or face lawsuits. In Mannheim, Germany, Christoph Boecken, a twenty-five-year-old student, posted a Year Zero song and received a cease-and-desist letter from Universal along with an invoice for $670 to cover legal expenses. Boecken paid, but a month later, he says, "Universal contacted me, stating that all of this was a big mistake. Some persons weren't aware of what other persons were doing." The company returned his money and invited him to see a NIN show and meet the band. Reznor's plan for Year Zero includes a series of interconnected Web sites that hint at a government conspiracy, with clues such as USB drives stocked with Year Zero tracks that fans have found in restrooms during the band's shows. Reps from Universal did not respond to requests for comment.
This story is from the May 3rd, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone.